Now back at .500 and in the middle of the AFC Playoff hunt, the Miami Dolphins next challenge presents itself as one of the hottest teams in the league, the Carolina Panthers, a team that has now won six straight games after their win over the Patriots last night.
Carolina, led by quarterback Cam Newton, has turned into one of the league’s more dangerous and dynamic offenses. Newton is a big part of the success, as he has made significant strides as the young signal caller continues to mature and develop, rounding out his game as opposed to being more of a pure athlete when he came into the league.
“He’s making better decisions, I think, this season,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said in an interview with the Finsiders. “He can make all the throws, that’s not an issue with him. And then, he’s got the ability to extend plays. He’s playing very, very well and we’re going to need to be at the top of our game from a defensive perspective to contain him and force them to kind of use his arm more than his feel.
“The guy can run and he can throw, so that presents unique challenges to us as a defense. But he’s playing very well.”
And alongside Newton is veteran receiver Steve Smith, who’s gave just about every head coach a headache at some point or another throughout his time in the league.
“He’s had a ton of production for I don’t even know how many years, it seems like he’s been there forever,” Philbin said. “It seems like he’s been making plays forever. Different types of plays—down the field, in between the numbers, screens, you name it—he seems to be a guy who can run all the routes and compete for the ball and make a difference for his team. So we’re going to have to have our radar up against him.”
However, while the Panthers offense is playing at a high level, many would point to the defensive side of the ball as to why Carolina has progressed to where they are today. The Panthers lead the league in scoring defense, allowing just 13.5 points per game.
“Total offense is great, total defense is great, but points are what really matters in football and nobody has done it better than them from the defensive side of the ball,” Philbin said. “So offensively, we’re going to need to be playing very, very well.
While it may appear to be anything but easy, Cameron Wake would tell you that’s the case just about every week in the NFL. That’s especially true at this point in the season, when teams are scratching and clawing for the final playoff spots.
“It’s going to be November 24th ,” Philbin said, “and we’re getting to the point in the season where, you have aspirations, you have ambitions, you’ve got to step up your game in late November and December.”
But instead of focusing on those aspirations and the big picture, Philbin is quick to point out the process.
“Beat Carolina,” he said. “Those things have a way of working themselves out if you’re playing well and at the end of the night the scoreboard is in your favor.
“We’ve just got to stay hungry, stay at work and get ourselves ready to play.”
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.